Beyond the realm of words
As much as I love Australia, there are certain parts of my background that will never leave me. My father’s wish for me when I was 12 years old was to start to learn the Hafiz Qur’an. Hafiz refers to committing the entire Qur’an to memory.
My father said he would not talk to me if I didn’t do as he asked. If my dad is religious, I have to be religious. He chose me, his last son, to do this important study.
I spent five years studying the Qur’an. I would wake at 6am to be at the Madrassa by 7.30am. The Madrassa, or religious school, was one large floor with 10 separate classes all learning the same thing at the same time. It was very hard work sitting all day on the carpet, learning recitals and prayers. But it was the greatest privilege.
Explaining what my years at the Madrassa taught me is very difficult because it is something beyond description. It is one thing to read the Qur’an as most Muslims do, it is another thing altogether to learn it. What also separates this form of study to any other is that it allowed me to take in the Qur’an as it was written, not through translations.
To experience the Qur’an like this is not in the realm of words. It is a feeling, the deepest respect and love. It makes you a great person in the world to have such an understanding.
I’m respectful of people and if they don’t respect me, I do not give in to anger. I learnt to not react to abuse. These have been important lessons for me in dealing with some of the challenges I have faced so far.
This knowledge has shaped me into the person I am today. I came from an unusual childhood and it would have been easy for me to feel entitled or have a big ego. However, learning the Qur’an taught me to be a humble person, to be down to earth.
I’m respectful of people and, if they don’t respect me, I do not give in to anger. I learnt to not react to abuse or things like that. These have been very important lessons for me in dealing with some of the challenges I have faced so far in my life and will no doubt face in the future.
Religion will remain a big part of my life in Australia. I love that I am free to practise Islam here. I pray in the dressing rooms during breaks in our games and no one shows anything but respect.
Some of my WA teammates have asked me about it – because they are interested, not scared or suspicious – and I answer any questions they have. It’s a really good thing.
A Great journey begins
There is one part of Australian culture I have stayed away from since coming here this time – going to the beach. Why? Because I should wait for my wife so we can enjoy it together!
I married Sobia eight months ago in Lahore. It was a small wedding, like we do in Islam. Sobia is an actress, she has done movies and drama series in Pakistan. She’s quite famous – more famous than me!
Perhaps in the same way that it’s impossible to explain the honour of learning the Qur’an, it is hard for me to find the words to express my love for Sobia. She is the world to me. She is always behind me like a wall. She says nice things, helps me when I’m upset. She makes me very happy. I feel very blessed to have a wife like her.
When I was in Australia last year, Justin Langer was in Brisbane for the Big Bash and called to say he wanted to see me bowl. I rang Sobia, back in Pakistan, and told her I had a big day coming up.
I asked her to pray for me and she said no worries. She sent me a picture of something from the Qur’an and told me to read it 20 or 25 times, which I did. I went to Brisbane and bowled very well and JL really liked me.
When I returned to Pakistan, I told Sobia I wanted to marry her. I felt so lucky that she was so helpful to me, so thoughtful. But I was very nervous about how we could be together if I was playing cricket in Australia and she was working in Pakistan.
I became increasingly concerned that I hadn’t done enough to get a contract for the Scorchers. But Sobia said to just calm down, everything will be OK. She helped me financially as well through that time. Whatever I needed, she would bring for me. She is very kind.
One morning I was sleeping in and my manager called. Sobia answered and my manager told her to let me know I got the Scorchers contract. She woke me and told me the great news. I was half asleep but when I realised what she said, I began jumping up and down with excitement. It was a wonderful moment.
After that, she kept saying, ‘You can do it, you will do well, you have the ability’, all these things. Whatever she says, I listen to her, I concentrate on what she says and keep it in my mind. It’s really helped me.
Sobia used to be very busy with work, even though she could never work in Bollywood because of the problems between Pakistan and India. But she is not busy anymore.
I have told her she doesn’t need to work because my career is starting and it is time for me to pay her back. Well, as much as I can! The way she looked after me over the past year, I have to look after her for the rest of my life.
Sobia can make a career here if she wants. She speaks English. She just received her visa. She was jumping up and down with this news just as I was when I got the contract.
For Sobia and for me, this is the start of a great journey in a great country.